Phoenix Rising FC and Orange County SC are both in need of victory as they look to push above the playoff line in the Western Conference on Friday night. | Photo courtesy Ashley Orellana / Phoenix Rising FC
A pair of high-profile Western Conference contests bringing together two teams above the playoff line looking for a boost in form and two still below the playoff line as the final stretch of the season comes into view highlight Friday night’s three-game slate in the USL Championship, opening the weekend with what look on paper to be must-see contests.
Here’s a look ahead to the action.
Venue: MSU Soccer Park
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: NY 34%, CHS 40%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: The New York Red Bulls II will try to build on a comeback victory on Tuesday night when they play a Charleston Battery side that sits only a point ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. The Red Bulls II rallied for a 2-1 win against Atlanta United 2 at MSU Soccer Park as goals by Ugandan international Steven Sserwadda and O’Vonte Mullings in the final eight minutes led the 10-man hosts to victory. Mullings’ goal was his first in the professional ranks, adding to three assists this season, and gave New York a season sweep over Atlanta while earning its third win overall of the campaign. The Battery, meanwhile, conceded four goals for a second consecutive outing last Saturday night in a 4-1 defeat to Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC despite Augustine Williams opening the scoring at Lynn Family Stadium for his 12th goal of the season. Charleston will be without midfield Enock Kwakwa as he starts a three-game suspension after a red card against LouCity, and the visitors will be hoping to turn around their record against the Red Bulls II as the sides meet for the first time this season, with New York holding a 4-2-8 regular-season record against its visitors from prior seasons.
New York Red Bulls II – Jordan Adebayo-Smith: The English forward had a lively outing after coming on as a substitute on Tuesday night and will look to add to his team-leading four goals this season.
Charleston Battery – Augustine Williams: The Sierra Leone international has moved one goal away from his 50th in the Championship’s regular season after finding the net against LouCity and will be eager to keep his side from dropping into last place in the East with a win.
Venue: Weidner Field
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: COS 40%, ELP 34%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Both Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and El Paso Locomotive FC will try to end four-game winless streaks as they meet for the second time this season. The Switchbacks enter with some positive momentum after rallying to earn a 3-3 draw against Orange County SC last Saturday night at Championship Soccer Stadium with Elvis Amoh and Hadji Barry bringing the visitors back from a two-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes. The result kept Colorado Springs in third place in the Western Conference, and the side will now look to reverse a 1-0 defeat to Locomotive FC when the teams last met on July 9 at Southwest University Park. Josue Aaron Gomez scored the only goal in that contest, and it remains the last goal Locomotive FC has scored after a four-game losing streak has seen the side held scoreless in all four games. Last Saturday night, Locomotive FC fell 1-0 to Monterey Bay F.C. as Luis Solignac missed a first half penalty kick for the visitors at Cardinale Stadium, with that result pulling the side back into the playoff race in sixth place in the West. With sides closing in below the playoff line, El Paso is in major need of a victory to maintain its pursuit of a fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Hadji Barry: The 2021 Championship MVP notched his 13th goal of the season against Orange County and will be aiming to add to another great individual campaign will leading his side back into the win column.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Christiano Francois: The Haiti international has notched only one goal and one assist this campaign in 21 appearances and is due for a breakout performance against a Colorado Springs defense that has struggled recently.
Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: OC 37%, PHX 37%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: Orange County SC and Phoenix Rising FC are both in major need of a win as they square off for the second time this season with both teams still below the playoff line in the Western Conference. OCSC saw a potential victory slip away in the closing stages last Saturday night as it played to a 3-3 draw with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Championship Soccer Stadium after holding a two-goal lead through second-half goals by Tommy McCabe and Dillon Powers. The defending title holders remain on the bottom of the Western Conference standings with a 10-point deficit to make up in the final 11 games of the season, but they would close the gap on another side chasing the top seven in Phoenix Rising FC, which enters on a five-game undefeated streak that has seen the side record shutouts in each contest. Rising FC played to a 0-0 draw with Las Vegas Lights FC last Saturday at Wild Horse Pass to send its overall shutout streak to 455 minutes, and with a four-point gap to make up to the playoff positions the visitors will be hoping to claim victory against its longtime rivals. Orange County holds a narrow edge on home turf in the series between the clubs with five wins to Phoenix’s four, and after a 2-2 draw last time they met at Wild Horse Pass we could be in for another entertaining contest with plenty on the line for both sides.
Orange County SC – Dillon Powers: The veteran midfielder found the net for the first time since his return to Orange County midseason against the Switchbacks and will face a key battle with Phoenix’s Aodhan Quinn in the center of the park.
Phoenix Rising FC – Darnell King: The veteran defender has delivered a good run of form during Phoenix’s current shutout streak and he’ll need to continue that as the visitors look to pick up a big result on the road.